BIOGRAPHY: Joseph Barnard

Joseph Osmond Barnard was born in Portsmouth England, in 1816. At the age of 22, he went to Mauritius as a stowaway on a ship. There, he settled in Port Louis where he worked as a watchmaker and engraver. When the Mauritian Government planned to revamp its postal service, the plans included the issue of stamps as well. The art of engraving was not known to many on Mauritius, therefore the choice for Barnard was an obvious one. Barnard's estimate for the job, dated 12 November 1846, has survived and is now held by the British Library. It shows that he charged £10 for engraving the plate and a further 10 shillings per one thousand stamps printed.

With so few examples around, it is only logical that the design was based on  the contemporary stamps in use in Great Britain. Legend has it that Barnard had forgotten what wording to use and therefore opted for the now famous line 'Post Office' (rather than 'Post Paid which was used on a later issue), but seeing that the wording 'post office' had already been in use on Mauritius' handstruck postmarks for nearly two decades, one may wonder whether Barnard's use was indeed so erroneous, and whether he was not just following common practice.

Barnard engraved the two stamps, a 1d and a 2d, on a single copper plate, measuring 82 by 61mm. He did not have the machinery to create printing plates, therefore all stamps were printed from this original, two-stamp die. Barnard printed 500 copies of each value. They were issued on 22 September 1847, although a number were famously used a few days before then, on invitations to a Ball at Government House.

In 1912, reprints were made from the original plate; the so-called Paris prints. These consist of printings of the complete die (i.e. with the two stamps). The prints were made in red, blue or black. Later reprints also exist.

The circumstances of the original plate were shrouded in mystery for many decades, with its whereabouts unknown for a long time, until it recently resurfaced. It turned out it was part of the Maurice Burrus collection, but not sold among the rest of his collection. Burrus had gifted it to his niece and after she passed away in 2013, her family rediscovered it and put it up for sale in 2016.

In January 1848, Barnard was asked to engrave new stamps, while awaiting 'properly' printed stamps from Perkins, Bacon. He created plates of twelve stamps each, this time with the wording 'Post Paid'. The original plate for this issue was gifted to King George V.

Joseph Barnard passed away in 1865.

You will find Joseph Barnard's database HERE.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks!
      PS: have you checked out the Decaris database lately? It has a great new item on it, just keep scrolling down !


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